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Archive for Sunday, May 2, 2004

Female sex predator prepares for move

Convicted rapist to move into men’s facility

May 2, 2004

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— For the past six years, convicted child rapist Laura Faye McCollum has lived a lonely existence inside the state's women's prison.

On Monday, she is scheduled to move to the new Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island to live among 190 other dangerous sex offenders -- all of them men.

McCollum is worried about attending therapy sessions with the men, and many experts say treating offenders of both genders together could be harmful.

"Would you want to sit in a bunch of men who talk about what they did to women and how they'd like to do that to women again?" McCollum said. "I don't want them bringing their issues on me."

McCollum was convicted in 1990 of repeatedly raping an 18-month-old girl and trying to suffocate her with a pillow. She has admitted to sexually assaulting 15 children -- mostly girls between the ages of 2 and 3.

McCollum, 46, is one of only three female sex offenders in the nation considered dangerous enough to be civilly committed -- a process by which offenders are sent indefinitely to tightly controlled treatment programs after they have completed their criminal sentences.

The other women -- one in California and one in Minnesota -- are housed and treated apart from men.

In the early 1980s, the Minnesota Department of Corrections attempted coed treatment of sex offenders, but abandoned the program after less than a year.

Ruth Mathews, a psychologist who helped develop a program specifically for the women in Minnesota, said the coed effort there "was pretty disastrous,"

"The women were actually getting worse," Mathews said.

Women are more likely to be sex abuse victims themselves, Mathews said, so placing female sex offenders into groups with men can be harmful and leave them feeling revictimized.

In McCollum's case, if she is put into group therapy with the men, it will be with offenders who do not pose a threat to her, said Alan McLaughlin, associate superintendent for treatment and care at the Special Commitment Center.

For example, McCollum might be treated alongside child molesters who have no sexual interest in adult women, he said.

"I believe things will be better for her in the new facility," said McLaughlin, who added that McCollum will be housed in a separate wing from the men.

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